Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gravitum Update

A couple of screenshots of a current level in Gravitum, now that level building is coming together smoothly thanks to the tool chain updates.  Note: All images are still WIP and do not include finalized HUD's and so forth. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tool Chain Updates

All of the recent level design work, as can be seen in the Gravitum Teaser posted the other day, has been taking a considerable amount of time, and has led to some toolchain improvements.

Early on we invested in custom tools, one of which is Loki our tile based level editor. We decided to develop this technology in-house vs going with one of the many open source and free tile editors available.

This had both advantages and disadvantages. The primary disadvantage in my opinion, is of course the time investment to make the tool, support it, and update it as needed.

The advantages in our case, was having a map editor that you could actually place interactive objects with, set their specific properties, turn on preview mode, watch the platform or enemy move, or the laser barrier flicker on and off at a given time interval, and easily adjust as needed visually.

This was combined with a robust plug-in system, where it was relatively easy to write any new type of special object and plug it into the editor. Ideally all of this would decrease actual game development time, as more of the level mechanics could be set and seen inside of the editor.

Of course like all internal tools, Loki was never really finished, let alone polished, due to other deadlines and time investments.

As such a major feature for working with tiles has been missing for a long time, and this is the ability to create essentially custom brushes by copying existing tiles.

This is a huge time saving feature, especially when working with more complex tile groupings like animated lavas and such. It's also a feature which I implemented yesterday, which took most of the day to do, but has already made up for the implementation time.

Writing in-house tools always is a cost-benefit calculation, and one you should think about greatly, but its hard to deny the extra productivity that can come from a custom tailored pipeline and associated tools.

Gravitum Teaser

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Menus Crushed, now for the Physics Re-Match

Rejoice, for the in-game menu system and backend networking has now been fully completed and is working quite well, even with evil test conditions like disabling your network adaptor in the middle of a network request.

I've now moved onto probably our fifth revision of tweaking the physics model of the game. Its so critical to really nail the "feel" of things, and Kawe was also pointing out to me that I was perhaps going a bit extreme in some of the response times and timing needed. (A fact I attribute to my up-bringing of mostly fighting games, platformers, and arcade shooters, which are inherently reflex and memorization driven, even muscle memory driven in the case of fighters. )

Given the above, and with the addition of more interactive pieces to the level design, like speed boosters, and obstacles that stun or slow you, i've been pretty much redoing most of the physics model.

The real challenge of both the physics and level design in the case of this game, is to create something that is generally quite accessible to most players, yet is extremely difficult to master.  This goes towards our social/MP gameplay where you have catchers and escapers, and the idea of a "Perfect Escape" is something that should require real mastery to obtain.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Development Update

I've been working on our next game release, which is a sort of auto running, gravity flipping, turbo boosting, bridge spanning, laser defying, agility and reflex oriented game.

However, it also has some interesting competitive social features allowing you to record your level escapes, and for people to try an catch you during your recorded escape. This is all backed by easily being able to share a URL to watch a person's given escape, attempt to catch them, and likewise share the catch as well.

A few images of the game have come up across the internet in various Retromite interviews like the following one:

Of course with all of the social features comes lots of menu work. Which if there was one thing to ever convince me of quitting game development, it would be menus, and this is what I've been doing for the last week straight. So if anyone needs an out of practice armorer, mercenary, or something, now would be your best chance of stealing me away from the life of indie game development. Just saying.. 

Anyways in an effort to make menus very standardized Kawe whipped up a sort of lego based menu system, which is quite similar to how a lot of MMORPGs build up all of their various menus and gumps. Alas i've been assembling menus ever since. 

Tons of work given this is also tied to networking states and you need to wait for server responses, and also deal with error conditions, but I do think they have turned out quite nicely. 

Ideally this project will be wrapping up in the next two weeks or so finally, and then we can adventure into the insanely awesome world of ISOMETRIC based games.